Thinking ahead of the 2019 election

A positive outcome of the current awful presidential term is that in 2019 anticorruption will not be the anchor of any campaign. President Buhari has clarified to all that incompetence is more debilitating than corruption on a nation. There’s nothing worse than fighting corruption incompetently. You don’t only make corruption worse, you also run a greater than evens chance of halting economic activity and making growth anaemic.

Therefore, between now and 2019, we need to come up with a list of competences that we will use to assess anyone that seeks elective office especially the Presidency. APC successfully made the 2015 election a referendum on Goodluck Jonathan. That presupposes Goodluck Jonathan’s government as a qualitative benchmark for what good governance is. We will only be playing ourselves if we repeat the same in 2019. President Buhari and his government will not and should never be the benchmark by which we must judge whichever actors parade themselves for the presidency job in 2019. Our yardstick of who should be worthy to be our President must go above and beyond the last occupier of the office. By defining this yardstick, shallow but ambitious candidates will readily rule themselves out of the running and not abuse our collective sensibilities by still picking up a form. We also need politicians that have demonstrated without any shadow of doubt, that it is Nigeria before self. We need politicians that will find it worthy to sacrifice their personal ambition if it means the greater good for all of Nigeria.

In my opinion, beyond any other specialist skill that a candidate may have in 2019, we need to ensure that potential candidates have demonstrable capacity of political, economic and social inclusion. This is especially important given the powers vested in the President and the Executive arm of Government by our Constitution. We cannot afford to vote for anyone that has strength in one but weakness in others. Whoever offers him/herself up for President must be strong in all three areas. By strong, I mean we should be able to award them a 70% pass mark after vetting them during the primaries and general campaign. To get 70%, they must demonstrate consistency in any capacity they’re claiming as supportive of their candidacy. The consistency will demonstrate that they are principled. It will demonstrate that the public should expect fewer policy flip flops. Why is this important?

Nigeria’s problems are longstanding, structural and strategic – meaning that the solutions are equally longstanding and structural. There’s been no significant reduction in our problems over the years despite the significant cost – human and capital – expended by successive governments. We are still deficient in the same areas, still running a patrimonial society, governance is still based on patronage and government revenues are still based on resource rent. Ideally, on a principles and structural basis, our political elites shouldn’t really be flip flopping on policy rhetoric because the circumstances haven’t changed, all new information are still confirming ancient problems. What we need most from them is credibility, integrity and stability of policies so economic actors can plan and commit their investment capital over the long term.

I emphasise “inclusion” because our nation is multi ethnic and multi cultural. It is through inclusion that we can turn our diversity into a developmental weapon that acts as a catalyst for our national progress. We can place all other ideal characteristics needed in a President under one of the three overarching requirements of a) Political, b) Economic and c) Social Inclusion.

By creating this yardstick, we can already rule out some actors currently being promoted for the race to be President in 2019. For example, we can rule out Governor Tambuwal. If we are to consider the integrity of our democracy, Governor Tambuwal shouldn’t have retained his position as Speaker when he decamped from PDP to APC in 2014. Whilst there was enough loophole in our Constitution for him to use, he should have taken an ethical stand and vacate the position. It was an opportunity to demonstrate that his ambition was not worth the appearance or perception that questioned the ethical standard of the House or our democracy. Unfortunately, both he and the APC were quite happy to sacrifice Nigeria for their political benefit. So if Governor Tambuwal comes out in 2019, preaching he’s an adherent to the spirit and letter of our constitution and that he is committed to the progress of our democracy, we should ask him why this wasn’t the case in 2014.

We can also rule out President Buhari. He has so far failed to demonstrate that he has the capacity to enshrine any kind of inclusion with his lopsided appointments, his economic policy flip flops and certainly his continued side-eyeing of politically expedient steps towards the South-South displays this. President Buhari has never run a business, it is no wonder he struggles to appreciate the challenges of the private sector or of small businesses. We know the President is a billionaire (his assets are worth billions per Garba Shehu’s statement on the President’s asset declaration), but we don’t know how someone without a business can become a billionaire. Becoming a billionaire shouldn’t be that easy – in fact it shouldn’t be normal. The President’s current fight against corruption that excludes members of his own party demonstrates Nigeria isn’t quite at the centre of his anticorruption drive but more of a settlement of scores. If his anticorruption fight was truly pan Nigeria, then flagrant disregard of court rulings will not be so common nor should some suspiciously wealthy members of his party be roaming so freely. Going after members of his own party may hurt its chances at the next election or his own chance of retaining the party’s ticket, but not doing so suggests he’s comfortable sacrificing Nigeria for his/party’s self-interest.

We can also rule out Governor El Rufai. His comments on social media in the lead up to the last general election further inflamed the fire of ethnic division. These comments were truly shocking. His recent comment pushing for interest rates by political fiat (further eroding CBN’s independence), being against devaluation or floating of the naira given our dire finances (nothing has fundamentally changed about our finances to influence this flip flop on devaluation, so what economic data influenced it?), his action or inaction during the army massacre of innocent Nigerians in his state all demonstrate a limited capacity for political, social and economic inclusion.

Some of these actions, if viewed through the lens of selfishness, are quite sound. But when we place Nigeria’s interest above self, then it is impossible for Gov El Rufai to justify his comments and actions as being beneficial and supportive of moving our nation forward. Governor El Rufai’s best track record in public office coincides with when he was able to implement ‘strong man’ politics when he was FCT Minister and DG of BPE. Given that ‘strong man’ politics isn’t what we need, thanks to President Buhari for clarifying, then we have to mark down this track record of Gov El Rufai when assessing him as a potential President.

I like Atiku Abubakar. He scores highly in my assessment of those in the running to potentially be President. He is politically inclusive – having demonstrated throughout his political life his ability to work with people from other ethnicity, economically inclusive – his businesses are successful, aren’t monopolies that have cornered government patronage but are also filled with competent people that he has assembled and demonstrably works well with. Turaki Adamawa is also socially inclusive – his agribusiness patronises local farmers and his educational establishments have supported pupils from poor backgrounds especially escapee Chibok girls. Unfortunately, he has been unable to shake the corruption tag on him which weakens any positive on economic acumen. We cannot afford any corruption drama to derail what should be a focussed presidency given the huge task at hand. More importantly though, Atiku will be 73 in 2019, we certainly need a younger President. So he too should be out of the running for president in 2019!

“It’s the economy, stupid!” – This statement will be used during the 2019 election campaign and rightly so. Any country that is serious about development has to meet its citizen’s expectations for jobs, economic growth and stability. So anyone serious about becoming President in 2019 must provide a demonstrable track record and capacity of delivering jobs, economic growth and stability. Obviously, the person will not be working alone, so they must demonstrate a track record that shows clearly that they have the capacity to identify, appoint and efficiently and effectively work with competent persons in their cabinet. They have to demonstrate that they can inspire and motivate appointees – knowing when to allow them run with ideas or when to keep them in check. The must demonstrate ability to grasp sophisticated and non-sophisticated economic and social policies for the greater good of Nigeria and be willing to sacrifice their ambition for the sake of Nigeria.

We cannot afford to put someone that doesn’t demonstrate a sound grasp of socioeconomic issues and their solutions in Aso Rock. Our procurement laws are not hidden, nor are the inefficient working practices in federal MDAs. You cannot get into office, waste time and be seeking emergency powers to implement what should have been covered in your policy implementation instrument. We have to ask the what, when and how questions on any economic rhetoric in campaign manifesto. They must show full workings.


Thinking ahead of the 2019 election

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